Friday, September 08, 2017

Daemons are Forever by Simon R. Green

Daemons Are Forever (Secret Histories, #2)Daemons Are Forever by Simon R. Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was brilliant. I believe that's not an overstatement. This second book in the Secret Histories series illustrates that you either like Simon R. Green or you don't. His sense of humor might turn off some readers, and some of the prose can have a repetitive aspect. I think he likes to repeat things for emphasis. I had to look this up. It's called analepsis: repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis. Yeah, Green loves analepsis. As for me, everything I love about him is showcased in this novel. His silly but clever sense of humor. His belief in heroism. His cynical viewpoint of human nature. His understanding of the way people think. His love for fairy tales, mythology, folklore. His ability to write horror in a way that really gets you in the gut. His kooky characterization. It's all here.

The intersection of fantasy and spy literature is very appealing about this book. It's clear that Green loves Bond and can also poke fun at its motifs and conventions in a way that only a Bond fan can. I like that this is a part of the story, but it doesn't stay in pastiche territory. There's a nod to it several times, but Green has something a lot more interesting to explore with this book. He even throws in a little Lovecraftianesque elements.

The story starts with Eddie trying to pull his family back together and get the Droods back on track. He gets a lot of resistance in this endeavor, but Eddie is not the type to give up. He has Molly Metcalfe, the Witch of the Woods at his side, and some help from his uncle Jack, the Armorer. The rest of the Droods are more than happy to watch Eddie fall on his face. Eddie knows what many of us had to figure out for ourselves, family complicates our lives, makes us crazy, but they're family, so you can't just walk away from them, unless you have to.

Eddie decides they need a big bad to fight, so he decides they'll take on the Loathely Ones. I can't tell you more, because so very much happens and you'd have to read it to even get it. So much goes into this one.

I listened to this on audio, and I'm so glad I did. At first I was meh about the narrator. But he won me over but good. He's British, and also talented in voicing many dialects. Each character sounds distinctive, and he even changes the cadence of the speaker. He knows how to build drama, and also inject sarcasm and pathos into the dialogue and prose.

This was awesome action, now shying away from gore, but also quite horrific at times. I think the action balance was better in this one than The Man with the Golden Torc. Green takes more time with the exposition, and that's very crucial with this story. Eddie has a lot of plotting and planning to do, and he can't make these decisions on the fly. The fantasy is solid and the ideas are all over the place, but everything comes together very nicely. I was pretty upset about one character death, and I don't think Eddie is going to take what happened lightly or let it go. Revenge is a dish best served cold. The characters are all interesting, and add something to the story. If you think a character is wasted, keep reading and wait for it.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Eddie and Molly. They challenge each other, support each other, and accept each other, which is crucial, considering who both of them are. I think Eddie would be screwed in many cases without Molly, and while she's very independent, it's clear that Eddie is very important to her.

This is a crap review and I need to recharge my laptop. I'll end it by saying I loved this book and it just makes me love Simon R. Green even more than I already do. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Pirate at Christmas by Anna Campbell

A Pirate for ChristmasA Pirate for Christmas by Anna Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another book I am mega-late reviewing. I finished this the first of January of this year, although I started it in December. I am huge fan of Anna Campbell, and while I found this enjoyable, it's not nearly as memorable as my favorites by her. It's a good Christmas novella, and it has her distinctive and well developed chemistry between the characters. The hero is a ginger, which is definitely a plus for me as I love gingers. He's also a bit of a bad boy, but a good-hearted sort. He's spent most of his life at sea, so he's adapting to being back on solid ground and being an early. When he meets Bess, he knows she's the woman he's been waiting for, which was another thing I liked about him. He spends almost all of this story wooing her, which means going along with her holiday plans. This helps to get him rooted in the community since he never lived there, having grown up in Scotland. Rory definitely has the manly vibe going for him, and he's just a fundamentally good person. Sometimes you just got to be happy when you see that in a hero. I liked Bess. She was feisty and sweet. She was woman enough to handle Rory, and I liked how she responded to his flirting. She wasn't the type to just fall out of the hero, but gave him enough challenge to make the story interesting. The unfolding of the yearly Christmas Navitity play was fun, especially the spirited donkey who has a pivotal role.

In summary, this was an enjoyable short story to read for Christmas. I wish I had time to read it before Christmas. Hope I do better with that this year.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas

Crystal Cove (Friday Harbor, #4)Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We started this on audio, but I finished it on kindle. I liked this one a lot more than many of Kleypas fans. In fact, I liked it quite a bit. I probably helped that I didn't have high expectations. I liked Justine from the other books, but I wasn't particularly attached to her character. She seemed a bit shallow but kind in the other books. I have the feeling that Kleypas didn't have Justine's character fleshed out initially. She must have spent some time with Justine in between Dream Lake and this book and came up with who we see in Crystal Cove.

As Kleypas continues the magical realism theme in this series, this one is very much "Practical Magic." I love the book and the movie, and Kleypas does it justice, with her own spin. Justine is a hereditary witch. She's not heavily into it, although she does at times do some minor spellwork. Justine realizes that the reason why she's hasn't had luck with love is because her mother cursed her to never fall in love. Justine does a spell of her own to remove the geas. This backfires. In the meantime, she meets Jason Black, a billionaire badboy tech genius who buys up Alex Nolan's land to build a retreat for his business. Jason stays at her inn and there is an instant attraction between them. Jason is the kind of man who is dangerous to a woman. He has no concept of love or commitment. And he has a good reason. He has no soul. I can't say that all of Jason's issues arise out of his souless status. It's moreso due to his abusive father and how he treated his mother. I liked that Jason is part Japanese and this culture is part of who he is. They both share some family trauma. Justine's mother is a horrible person. Jason's dad is a horrible person. Both have been shaped by their horrible parents.

What an interesting combination.

I didnt' really get the whole no soul thing. It was pretty darn real. It doesn't make sense for my own spiritual perspective. But okay, I just went along with it. The witchcraft thing is something that you can idea ignore or embrace, but if it's a hard limit, this isn't the book for that reader. Since Kleypas is going with "Practical Magic", it's hard to not have it in this book.

Like always, Kleypas' writing is beautiful and immersive. Jason has a bit of a kinky thing going on with the bedroom, but it's not out of my personal comfort zone. He has some control issues, and that thing he's into delves into this aspect of his personality. Out of the books in Friday Harbor series, this book is the most sexually explicit, but it makes sense with the characters in the book.

I have to admit, I really believed in the love that developed between Jason and Justine. They are both cynical about love, so it's so beautiful the way it develops between them, and it's a sacrificial love. The conclusion is both strange but also very beautiful.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected. I ended up falling for Justine and Jason. While witchy romance isn't my favorite kind of paranormal romance, I think that Kleypas served up a lovely one here. I definitely preferred this to Rainshadow Road. The character of Jason has so much more substance than Sam, in my opinion. I think I prefer Justine to Lucy as well.

My Friday Harbor Book Preference:

1. Dream Lake
2. Crystal Cove
3. Christmas at Friday Harbor
4. Rainshadow Road

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Beauty Within by Savannah J. Frierson

The Beauty WithinThe Beauty Within by Savannah J. Frierson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of this author since Trolling Nights. I've had several of her books in my tbr pile and I decided to read this one on my Kindle. I really liked this book. It starts out in an unusual fashion. Tyler and Gunnar do not have good first impressions. In fact, Gunnar is actually a jerk to Tyler when they first meet. Gunnar is a gym owner and he has to take his personal trainer's new client and his current girlfriend had pissed him off and he's not happy about it. His behavior reminds Tyler of her insecurities with her weight.

Gunnar is man enough to admit when he's being a tool. He apologizes and finds that he's very attracted to Tyler. Truth be told, Gunnar never seemed to have an issue with Tyler's weight, but he's willing to help Tyler train to be more healthy since her weight was giving her back problems. As they spend time together, the attraction grows into something much more.

I've heard some of Savannah J. Frierson's readers don't like her insecure heroines. That doesn't bother me. I think that's realistic. Most women are insecure about something about themselves, be it external or internal. I think it makes her heroines relatable. I think that one could argue that her heroes are too perfect, but Gunnar definitely isn't that. He's a good guy and he makes up for being a jerk, but he did behave that way. And his past in LA showed that he was fallible and has made mistakes. I liked both of them. I enjoyed their romance. Their relationship was sexy and romantic. I also liked how the author integrated some real life issues into the story, from poor body image, the impact of broken relationships, drug abuse, and body abuse to fit an unrealistic ideal. It wasn't done in a preachy way, which I appreciated.

I also liked how Gunnar's Swedish heritage was integrated into the story. He would use words from his parents' native language, since he spoke it fluently. Also Tyler's culture as a black Southerner was integral. I liked how Tyler was really close to her sister and the fact that her sister's man worked for Gunnar and was friends with him. Their conversations felt authentic to me. Also, the characters have unique professions. Gunnar is an ex-model and gym owner and Tyler owns and runs a barber shop.

I went through a phase where I read a lot of BBW heroines (big, beautiful women) and I sort of fell out of it. I still like the sub-genre and the fact that a woman could be larger sized and still be appreciated by a man without losing weight. I think this was handled well in the book. Tyler focuses on getting healthy (although she does go in a more unhealthy direction with the weight loss and that is a huge trigger for Gunnar). I think that was good that Frierson factored this in, because it's important to be healthy in losing weight. What I loved the most was that Gunnar appreciated her before she lost weight, and my hope is that Tyler comes to embrace herself in the shape she comes and not focus on an unhealthy ideal.

This isn't my favorite by Frierson, because I love Trolling Nights and Being Plumville so much, but I did enjoy it a lot and would recommend this book to contemporary romance readers, and those interested in interracial romance.

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Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Rainshadow Road (Friday Harbor, #2)Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I read this book back in the summer, and I never got around to writing the review. If I had a word to describe it, it's charming. At the same time, I can't say either Lucy or Sam would be anywhere near the top of my list of favorite Lisa Kleypas characters or couples. In fact, I did have minor issues with both of them. Sam more than Lucy.

Lucy made me want to yell at her a few times. I didn't get why she let Alice get away with so much, although LK did a good job of explaining the complexities of the sister relationship and the fact that Alice getting away was stuff was doing business as normal. But I wanted Lucy to get Alice told, and she didn't quite do that. Alice is a mega-brat and she needed someone to hold her accountable for the crap she'd done and instigated in her short life, and Lucy wasn't willing to do it. I think Lucy will appeal to a lot of readers, because she does seem like a normal kind of woman (despite her magical abilities).

Sam, well he just comes off as selfish in that he is living his life and that's his thing. His family dysfunction is there, but he was able to escape from it in a way that his other siblings couldn't, I don't think. He had the neighbors to hide out with and they were like grandparents, giving him a sense of safety. Although I read Dream Lake after this, I started to think of these books as a group. Sam lives in the shadow of Alex for me. Sam managed to avoid most of the angst that hit Alex full in the face, so it’s not wonder that Alex is a trainwreck.

I know that a big issue that I have with Sam is his attitudes towards sex and relationships, or lack thereof. He had no desire for a meaningful relationship. Yes, as the child of two alcoholics, that makes sense. I think if he had shown more depth, I could have connected to him and his reasons. I did like that he finally realized how much Lucy meant to him and his gesture was so sweet and authentic.

As far as Sam and Lucy's relationship, it was pleasant. I did believe they loved each other, but it's hard to get too involved in their relationship considering that I didn't have strong feelings for either of them.

I liked the magical elements. It was different and unique. It's subtly done but integral to the storyline. Kleypas doesn't really explain why Lucy has this ability and no one else in her family does. I don't know if it's because of the fact that Alice always got all the attention and this was a gift that belonged her her alone.

I've read all the books in this series, and this is my least favorite. I think it lacks the punch that later books have, and with Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, Holly pretty much cinches the story. Holly was in this book and I liked how Sam does connect with Holly, and that is an aspect of the story that gives Sam an added depth.

I have very high standards for Lisa Kleypas. She's been one of my favorite authors, well, for most of my life. I like her foray into something different, and she did it well, but this doesn't stand up well to her other books. Normally most of her heroes turn me into goo, but Sam left me very unmelted.

So, I gave this one 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Shadow Rider by Christine Feehan

Shadow Rider (Shadow, #1)Shadow Rider by Christine Feehan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

An interesting new series for Christine Feehan readers. With everything going on, it took me a long time to finish it. I read most of it on the way home from Illinois when we got back from my grandmother's funeral. I was really sucked in at that point. This one is about a family of people whose shadows are alive and they can manipulate and move the through the shadows/ dark spots around them. Cool idea. I'd give the idea definitely over a four star. The story overall is more like a three and a half. I think it's me. I am not into the mafia vibe. There was a pervasive mafia feel to this book I didn't enjoy. The lead character, Stefano seems like a mafia don, a man of infinite power and who is infinitely adored. But he's in a violent world and capable of extreme violence. I think if there was no paranormal elements, this simply would have been a crime romance about made men in Chicago. It was creepy who everyone bowed down to Stefano and his family and was constantly telling Francesca how lucky she was to be the apple of his eye. I think I would want to get the heck out of there. It could be what's going on right now in the country that has me sensitive to a lot of Kool-aid drinking, but that was a turnoff for me.

The other thing that bothered me was so controlling and rough Stefano was with Francesca. Now I can't say he was abusive. But he was very clearly always the one in control and expected Francesca to go along with this. I'm not into that whole aspect in which the hero is uber dominant and the heroine is submissive to him in every aspect of their relationship. Francesca did have a backbone and she was her own person, but I found her too compliant for my tastes.

I was kind of meh about Stefano. He was hot looking, with the black hair and dark blue eyes (which I really like). I dug how the Ferraros always wore three piece suits and looks damned good in them. But being rich and hot isn't everything. I mean, he's a good guy and takes care of the family and the folks in his neighborhood. And he doesn't take crap. He puts his enemies down hard. He really lost me when he kept going on about how he needed sex and lots of it, but the women didn't mean anything to him. I can't stand when the hero's sexual past in rubbed in the heroine's face. Francesca kept running into Stefano's vindictive hookups and many excuses were made about how it was a nature of the Shadow Riders, but she was special to him and he adored her. Then the dude has the nerve to think about hunting down Francesca's first and only lover other than him and killing him. What. The. Frell? Nope. Yes, I like a possessive hero, but not when he's been there done that and gets irritated because the he isn't the first for the heroine. Double Standard Alarm going off.

Another thing is how raunchy and rough the love scenes have gotten to be in Feehan's books. Very much over the line into erotic. I am not against sex scenes, I just get to the point where it's too much for me. Especially when it's about the hero making all the demands the heroine submitting to him sexually. It doesn't do a thing for me.

I guess there was a good love story. I didn't really connect to that aspect of the book. I was more intrigued with the shadow rider concept and the suspense storyline. Feehan knows how to write a good action and suspense story. I loved the climax. It was on point. When I was about to check out because of all the sex scenes that went on too long, the storyline twisted back to focus on the action and suspense, and I was hooked as before.

This was almost a four star, but the things I complained about above kept it in the 3.5 star range. I really wish Feehan would chill down some of the raunchy love scenes and the must have control in the bedroom aspect. That's getting old. I love a tender lover personally in my romances. If he gets a little wild every now and then, that's cool. But rough 24/7, no thanks. I love the family element and I grew fond of the Ferraro siblings. I'm looking forward to the sister's story with the guy who's in the rival family. My luck, it will probably be the last book in the series. Since it's Feehan and she's like my personal brand of crack, I will read them all.

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Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas

Dream Lake (Friday Harbor, #3)Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dream Lake Review (finally)

I was excited to read Alex’s story and I was not disappointed. Alex out of all the Nolans grabbed my heart and squeezed it, wouldn’t let it go. Alex has traits that make him my kryptonite. I adored him. He’s tortured and grumpy. He’s described as having a ruined beauty that women can’t resist, but he’s not a womanizer. While having a broken beau is nothing a woman should aspire to in life, broken heroes seem to appeal to me like no other. I loved seeing Alex’s damaged psyche be healed in a realistic way. Kleypas doesn’t take any shortcuts. She shows you all the dark spots on Alex’s soul, even his destructive, unhealthy relationship with his ex-wife, Darcy. While Zoe in herself doesn’t heal Alex, the functionality of their relationship is a sharp contrast to his failed marriage. While Darcy seemed to want to put Alex back on the rails with his drinking, Zoe wants Alex to be whole and healed, not for herself, but for him. When Alex and Zoe meet in Rainshadow Road, it felt like magic to me, and it turned out to be the case. Zoe and Alex are made for each other. Zoe is fairly well balanced. She does have some self-esteem issues due to her extreme beauty and voluptuous physique, and the trauma of being judged for it. To the extent that she marries a man who is gay because he doesn’t objectify her. While Alex is obviously completely blown away by Zoe, he doesn’t treat her like a sex object, and in actuality, tries to push her away because he knows he’s damaged goods. However, the connection between them cannot be ignored. I ate up their falling in love. Enjoyed every scene they had together. Zoe’s major issue is the failing health of her grandmother. Her grandmother has a form of dementia that escalates rapidly, and Zoe takes on the role as caregiver. Alex takes on the job of remodeling the cottage that Zoe’s cousin Justine lets her live in with her grandmother. Their proximity is an excellent opportunity for the powerful emotions between them to blossom. And in seeing each other under their worst situations, they realize that love isn’t about perfection but about loving perfectly.

Kleypas was going for a magical realism theme with this series, and this book reminded me of “Like Water for Chocolate” or “Simply Irresistible” with some “Ghost” thrown in. Zoe’s cooking seems to have healing properties, although I don’t think there was really any magic in it. It was merely a case of the fact that her food was what sustained Alex and tempted him to eat when he was at the lowest point in his alcoholism. The ghost angle comes in with the spirit that attaches himself to Alex, a spirit that lives in the house that Alex’s brother Sam owns and that Alex has taken on restoring. Alex seems driven to restore the house, and the spirit becomes attached to Alex in the process. It’s hate at first sight. The spirit can’t stand Alex, who comes off as a complete misanthrope if not nihilist. It’s Alex’s hero’s journey to heal spiritually and to rid himself of the dark cloud that has surrounded him since his traumatic childhood, being victimized by two violent, unrestrained drunks. I don’t know what Kleypas’ spiritual beliefs are but she see doesn’t shy away from adding a spiritual component to this novel, that make sense in that we’re dealing with a ghost and a hero who is having a major existential crisis. The ghost often functions as Alex’s conscience and in some ways, much like the ghosts that visit Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” This is another book in which Kleypas obvious love of literature is showcased and lovingly inscribed into her writing.

This book is my favorite out of the series, and it earns a resounding five stars. I think that it captures the tone and the notes of a beautiful contemporary romance only as Kleypas could deliver. She uses language so beautifully, from the well-developed characters, to the intentional and spot on dialogue. While the ghost story didn’t really add to this book for me, it’s integral to the story, and it would definitely appeal to readers who like a little paranormal in their romance. Not as excited about Justine’s book, but at the same time, looking forward to reading it.

Oh, I guess I should mention the audiobook narration. It was good. Serviceable.

My dream cast:

Kelli Garner as Zoe

Nicholas Hoult as Alex

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Alias, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 (Jessica Jones Alias, #1)Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Basically, if you like the Jessica Jones show on Netflix, you will like this. It even has the same tone. Not much happens. Except the show has more wow, crazy moments than the graphic novel does. Heavy on prose and ironical humor. Jessica herself is impossible not to like, probably because of her flaws. She's cynical, drinks too much, and is a bit of a misanthrope. This is essentially a graphic novel about an ex-superhero turned private investigator who has turned her back on the superhero world, even though it keeps drawing her back in. So there is not a lot of epic battles and such. It's very grounded in everyday. Readers who are looking for a narrative/prose-driven graphic novel that deals with celebrity and the question of what happens afterwards, will appreciate this book.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 1 by Tom Taylor

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 1Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 1 by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Riveting stuff. Superman's rampage continues. He's decided that he needs to rule over mankind so he can keep it safe. Not everyone is down for it, so things come to a head between him and Batman. Heartbreaking, really. Batman will not give up. He's not made that way. Even he will take on a madman with unlimited power. Superman has lost his grip and he's developed a cult of personality around him. Very timely subject matter. Some leaders can do that, and that's when people have to make the truth clear. Even at great cost. Meanwhile, some galactic protectors need to decide if they will get in involved.

Batman is not able to to watch over Gotham (let's leave it at that), so Jim Gordon and his crew take up the mantle, along with the Birds of Prey. They have an asset in their favor to even the odds a little.

I wish I had written this review sooner, but it's so intense and affecting, and I'm not describing it well. Let's just suffice it to say that you can't read these books and be okay afterwards. It's good to be able to say, it's only fiction, and not all the DC books reflect this reality. Let's take this fiction and learn some lessons so we don't repeat these mistakes in real life, okay?

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Hopeless Maine: Personal Demons

Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine, #1A)Personal Demons by Tom Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The artwork in this book was gorgeous, but the storyline feels underdeveloped, probably due to the lack of prose. It's a stylistic choice for the artist, having the male and female characters look so similar. It gives the characters an otherworldly beauty that is rather feminine on the whole. Not a dealbreaker--just interesting to me. I loved the dark Gothic feel. I'll pick up the next volume at my library.

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Constantine: Hellblazer, Volume 1: Going Down by Ming Doyle

Constantine: The Hellblazer, Volume 1: Going DownConstantine: The Hellblazer, Volume 1: Going Down by Ming Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A new Constantine series that feels like old Constantine. Nice. Yeah, it's got the tone and the feel of the older series. By that I mean the cringy, it's the "that's not right" feeling I get when I read old Constantine. They haven't cleaned up this version and made him PC for a "kinder" generation. I didn't like the artwork so much. It's a little squiggly for my tastes. Okay, yes I'll keep reading. It's Constantine.

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Harley Quinn, Vol.3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab by Amanda Conner

Harley Quinn, Vol. 3: Kiss Kiss Bang StabHarley Quinn, Vol. 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab by Amanda Conner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my favorite one in this series. I'm glad I didn't give up. The silliness is tempered out a bit with good storytelling. Harley is much more of a heroic antiheroine instead of a neutral character who has no concept of right and wrong. Also, we get to see her psychiatrist roots in this book. There is still some gross humor, but not as over the top. Loved the Batman/Bruce Wayne storyline and the lesson about you might not want what you thought you did when you actually get it. A lot of good moments and this one actually had a feel good vibe to it. Not helping my Harley Quinn obsession here, folks.

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GI Joe: The Fall of GI Joe by Karin Traviss, Steve Kurth

G.I. Joe: The Fall of G.I. Joe Volume 1G.I. Joe: The Fall of G.I. Joe Volume 1 by Karen Traviss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first GI Joe comic. I have liked GI Joe since I was a kid and the animated tv show came on with its famous (and I still use it), "...And Knowing is Part of the Battle" saying. I admit that I really checked this out because Baroness is on the cover. Even though she's a bad guy, I find her interesting, and I love her style. Sadly, she is barely in this book.

I think this story is really serious and tackled some intense issues. I didn't mind that, but I didn't think that it really captured the feel of the GI Joe team. I haven't read proceeding volumes (since this is my first one), so I not familiar with the events prior that lead to the team losing people and Duke going off on his own. Also, the fact that the government is about to shut down the GI Joe program.

This story seems focused on the main villain, a young man who went through the Cobra Cadet training but is now joining the Separatist group in his country, believing that Cobra is too moderate and extreme measures are required to win back his company's independence. I think that if I wasn't looking for a GI Joe book and more action, this would have been an interesting dramatic thriller suspense graphic novel. But since I was looking for a GI Joe book, it was disappointing.

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The Poe Estate by Polly Shulman

The Poe Estate (The Grimm Legacy, #3)The Poe Estate by Polly Shulman
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is an homage to Gothic fiction lovers aimed at younger readers. I loved that about this book. It's metafiction that takes it even deeper. There is story within a story within a story. I read The Wells Bequest first, which is the science fiction volume of this series. I liked it, but I liked this more because I love Gothic/Classic horror. It's apparent that Shulman does as well. I made a note of all the books she alluded to. Many I had read, but I got ideas for others to look up and read.

The overall concept was well done, and some elements were quite serious for a MG level book. This book deals with death in a very matter-of-fact way. Suki's sister died and her ghost is her protector. Except Kitty is getting to be problematic in her protectiveness, leading to Suki's reputation as being weird, and Suki needs to let her go. Her parents have to move in with a great, great-aunt into a house that is part of her family's strange and tragic history. As Suki gets drawn into an adventure related to her ancestor's tie to the house and interacts with employees from the New York Circulating Repository, she learns that it's important to accept her sister's death and try to move on.

I couldn't give this book higher than 3.5 stars because it is written in too lightweight a fashion. Some serious topics are put out there and there are deeper levels that don't get delved into with this book. I feel that there was a longer book inside of this one that didn't get written. I understand that some things had to be pared down due to format, but I would have liked to see that other book that this book shows potential for turned out. On the good side, I love how multicultural it is, and the fact that all families aren't the same, and that hardworking people experience financial difficulties and lose their homes and jobs. Not because they are lazy, but because of things outside their control. Suki is a strong young girl to go through all of this and keep on going. I had mad respect for her and her family. I cried about her sister and some of the tragic events from her family's past.

I love the metafiction concept. I could read about that for days. I could have spent hours more delving into this interest world that Shulman created. I wish I had 100 more pages of this gem. I will always be a cheerleader for middle grade fiction. While I was somewhat disappointed with this book, I would still recommend it to readers who love classic and Gothic horror.

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Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories (Library Edition)Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I checked this audiobook out to celebrate the October Spooky mood. I have been an admirer of Poe since I was a grade school student, and what IMurders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories (Library Edition)Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I checked this audiobook out to celebrate the October Spooky mood. I have been an admirer of Poe since I was a grade school student, and what I've read by him, I've loved. I have been meaning to read more by him, but haven't taken the time. Audiobooks are such a good way to maximize my time because I can listen and do other things, so I grabbed this one. In all honesty, it wasn't very scary or even eerie (with the exception of "The Raven. " I am glad that I did listen to it though. I had never read any of these stories. I could have done without a couple of them, but overall, it was enjoyable, and this four hour audiobook format was a good way to keep me company as I did other things. The narrator's voice was a bit irritating, with a nasally tone that wasn't my favorite. He was good with accents and voices though.

Here are my thoughts on the stories:

"Murders in the Rue Morgue" --I love a good detective story, and this is the first detective story, and that is to be celebrated. I saw a lot of Sherlock Holmes in C. Auguste Dupin and Watson in his anonymous friend. It was a great mystery with a crazy resolution. I never would have guessed. My only issue with it is that it's basically telling and not showing. Dupin seems very pompous in his way of analyzing people, and he seems very self-important. He shows the observant trait of a good detective, which Poe terms ratiocination. I loved the twist on how each witness thought the guttural speaker was a foreigner, but from a place that had never been. In light of the resolution, that was a very nice touch. I give this four stars because it's impressive as the first detective story. I think all the detective fiction readers and writers owe Mr. Poe a great debt.

"The Purloined Letter" --I didn't find this one as impressive as the first. It seemed very simplistic, and there was no real tension. I do give Dupin props for his handy solving of a mystery that had the police stumped, but he's so obnoxiously arrogant about it. Sherlock with some aristocratic French attitude thrown in. 3 stars.

"The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade" --I didn't care much for this, sadly. I love Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights stories, and I don't think this added anything to the mystique of the stories. I felt like it was full of weirdness, way too random, with bizarre diversions in the storytelling, but at the same time, really quite boring. Besides, it ruined the best aspect about the stories, so that was a downer for me. Probably my least favorite story by Poe. 2 stars.

"A Descent into the Maelstrom" --This felt more like a Jack London story than a Poe story. It's good to see that he does venture into straight adventure, no pun intended. I felt it was an average read. It didn't have much of an impact on me, but I didn't dislike it like the previous novel. 2.5 stars.

"The Raven"-- A classic by this author. I love poetry, especially eerie poetry. I admit I don't like overly long poems, so this was a nice length. Long enough to get a reader involved, with a beautiful rhythm to it. Listening to this was a lot of fun. I think I would need to read it, to delve more meaning out of it. It's a bit oblique, in my opinion. 3.5 stars

"Masque of the Red Death" --I really appreciated listening to this. I have seen the movie with Vincent Price and thought it was very clever. It's interesting how they managed to get a full-length movie out of this, since it was very short. I think the tone was nicely Gothic and sinister, and it has an impactful statement about the concept of believing that being wealthy and high status makes one exempt from all ills. And there is something very repugnant about indulging debauchery and hedonism when people are suffering around you. Death finds everyone of us. 4 stars.

Conclusion: Four hours of my life that I can't say I regret. It helped that I was finishing a project for school at the time, so it kept me busy. I would say that one's life is not added to much by "Scheherazade" and "A Descent into the Maelstrom", but I recommend the other stories.


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Lafcadio Hearn's The Faceless Ghost and Other Macabre Tales from Japan: A Graphic Novel

Lafcadio Hearn's Lafcadio Hearn's "The Faceless Ghost" and Other Macabre Tales from Japan: A Graphic Novel by Sean Michael Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful art with eerie storytelling. I wish this was a series. I would so keep reading these. I still intend to read the original stories, but this was great as a visual format to some great classic horror I hadn't yet got around to reading except for one very scary story by Hearn I read in an anthology. If you like Japanese horror movies, check out the source material.

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Hellboy and the B.P.R.D, Vol.1: 1952

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., Vol. 1: 1952Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., Vol. 1: 1952 by Mike Mignola
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Weird. Yeah, I know that 'weird' is essential to Hellboy. But this was really weird. A hodge podge of horror with science fiction. Hellboy is awesome as always. His team kind of blurs together for me. Good action, but nothing that stood out and made me say wow. Having said that, it's Hellboy, so it's good.

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Kraken Rising by Greig Beck

Kraken Rising (Alex Hunter, #6)Kraken Rising by Greig Beck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alex Hunter, the Arcadian, goes back to Antarctica, or at least, beneath it, and faces an old menace. And we, the readers, are along for the ride. This book is as much horror as action. I have always thought as the polar ice caps melt, something will be revealed that we may not want unleashed in the modern world. Pathogens that could wipe out humanity. This book touches on these fears, both at a macro and micro level. The world beneath Antarctica as a whole seemed out to get to the explorers. There are moments in this book that made my skin crawl and made me wince. I didn't read this before bed, but I can imagine it might have given me some night terrors. I do admit to a phobia about infection and pathogenesis.

Alex is a complex character. As much a hero as a man on the brink of psychosis. He received a treatment that saved his life and made him a super-soldier, but has also awakened an Other inside of him that is basically a deranged psychopathic killer. It takes an incredible amount of effort to Alex to surpress that part of himself. Alex had to leave behind his loved ones, including Aimee his ex-lover and the child they made together. But he will have to come out of the dark when they are both in danger.

But a huge problem is that China and United States may start a global thermonuclear war because of the conflict arising from their altercations at the South Pole and a lost US submarine. In order to neutralize this conflict, Alex has to go find that sub. The sub search will put them in the crosshairs of an ancient and powerful beast, a creature of biblical fame, and a species that has adapted over millions of years to its sub-oceanic/sub-Antarctica environment.

This is not the second book in the series, but it's actually fine to read this after Beneath the Dark Ice. Stuff happens in the books before this, but the author does a good job of not letting that be an issue to understanding the events of this book.

The gore factor is fairly high and so is the gross out level. Some of the stuff in this place literally made my skin crawl. I'm a germaphobe, and this has plenty of triggers for folks like me. Like I said, this whole habitat is out to get the humans who trespass. To the environment and its inhabitants, humans are just prey. High body count, so be warned about that as well. I liked all the high tech gadgets. I am not a gun person in real life, but I enjoy reading about hardware in books. There is also plenty of excellent action sequences, of many kinds. Try going man to giant kraken and see how well that turns out for you. Generally not good. And don't think that you can hide from it. Oh no. There's no hiding.

Recommended to readers who like action/adventure with sci-fi horror elements.

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The Punisher, Volume 3: Last Days

The Punisher, Volume 3: Last DaysThe Punisher, Volume 3: Last Days by Nathan Edmondson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Definitely the darkest book in this series. Very violent and bloody but also with a sense of futility. The Punisher has to ask himself what he's doing and why, and he's placed in the situation of being seen as Public Enemy Number One, when he's just doing what he can to protect society from violent criminals who want to kill and destroy others. The conclusion is a segway that feels odd and not strictly harmonious with the overall story arc of this series. The ending makes me question if this is truly the end for the Punisher. Of course, I'll keep reading these if they make more.

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Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman

Secret WarsSecret Wars by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, I wasn't impressed with this graphic novel. The concept was grand and expansive, but ultimately confusing. Maybe a big issue with it is that the Fantastic Four characters are the core of the story. I don't find them that interesting. I thought I would like the idea of an alternative earth created out of necessity, but I didn't much. The world seems very nebulous in its composition, and the story keeps going back to Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic and Victor Von Doom, who is God Doom in this story. I'm not sure what I was reading. I'm not sayin' I'm brilliant, but I like to think I should have been able to dissect what the point of this story was. By and large, it just felt like a wasted opportunity to get so many people from the Marvel Universe together in one story. With current events, I am feeling that whole all powerful dictator thing and group think as a story concept, but this needed to be better written to impact me.



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Inustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 2Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This series gives me a stomach ache in a good way. This intense storytelling. Superman has completely gone off the deep end and he's barely recognizable to those who love and respect him. Those who once counted Superman as friend and ally are having to choose which side to take. Superman has become a totalitarian who believes that the only solution is to control everyone and to suppress any dissent. Of course, Batman is not going to go along with that, and it has ended disastrously for the once friends and allies. Humans are rising up and taking their place in the fight, because it's their world too. They fight alongside the heroes who have chosen to go against Superman.

I have a huge love for Harley Quinn, so it was nice to see her show up and her relationship with Black Canary, finding common ground. Also, Zatanna shows up in this book. Another favorite DC heroine of mine. I liked seeing so many unlikely allies come together in the fight, but it's very painful to see the fall of enduring heroes in the DC Universe.

Injustice is huge and epic. One cannot read this series and not feel the foundations of the DC World shake under one's feet. When I finish these books, I still feel the tremors long after I put the book away.

Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars.

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Alias: Jessica Jones, Volume 2: Going Home

Alias, Vol. 2: Come HomeAlias, Vol. 2: Come Home by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This volume is very dialogue heavy. Such a different sort of Marvel title. Really not any action. Lots of social commentary that is very timely. I can understand 100% Jessica's disgust at the pastor who was rehearsing a speech that is despicable, and he truly believes in. Ugh. Yeah, that's definitely a pet peeve of mine, so I was feeling Jessica. Jessica goes to small town America to help find a missing girl. The trail reveals a rot in the small town and gives Jessica one more thing to be disillusioned about. Not that Jessica needs that. Oh and she goes on a date with Scott Lang. You can see a lot of the creators' worldview in this, but I think things that need to be said and addressed are done in such a way without being preachy.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Breach by Patrick Lee

The Breach (Travis Chase, #1)The Breach by Patrick Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After several false starts, I got into this book. I read most of it on the way to Illinois for Thanksgiving. This is one of those books that takes a while to get started, but once you're in, you're in. The concept is so crazy, it takes a while to figure out what's going on. I think the closest comparison I could make is the TV show "Fringe". It's that kind of crazy. Also it's the kind of thing that people who have tons of conspiracy theories and deep distrust for the establishment, corporations and the government will read and say, "I told you so." The ending is a bit of a mindblower. I am still trying to decide how I felt about it.

I am no physics genius, but I love the concept of time travel. I like the ethics and philosophical aspects. You know, the whole grandfather complex thing and the "if you could go forward or back, would you?" kind of thing. Also, there's the whole what happens when we open doors to places we don't know anything about. Should some doors stay closed?

As a scientist, I have asked myself that many times. I tend to be a big fan of scientific ethics and I think that you can't throw that out just in the search of knowledge. Seek it, but seek it carefully and cautiously. Some of the inventions in this book, I can't even. I mean, they should be buried in a very deep hole somewhere. I pray some of this will never exist in real life.

So anyway, my opinions of science and time travel aside, this trippy book really grabbed me and didn't let me go. There is a high body count and I asked myself what the hell is wrong with some people. They abandon right and wrong for power and ugly stuff happens. That's a big part of this book. Also, on the good side, there are people who will put their lives on the line to do the right thing. That takes a lot of moral courage and I feel that even from fiction, we can draw courage to face those tough ethical decisions in our own lives.

This one has some blood and guts, but nothing gratuitous. I would advise readers to plan to pick up the next book. I have it, and I will try to get to it in the nearish future.

This is my second book by Patrick Lee. I read Runner first, and I like his style. He's not afraid to go there and put the reader through their paces. He doesn't give them a cut and dried book. He makes them think about what they are reading. I like that in an author.

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Daredevil: Back in Black, Volume 1: Chinatown by Charles Soule

Daredevil: Back in Black, Volume 1: ChinatownDaredevil: Back in Black, Volume 1: Chinatown by Charles Soule
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this more than I did. I think it's because I loved other Daredevil book so much. I didn't care for the artwork. For lack of a better word, it was too scratchy looking for me, which didn't work well with the monochromatic colors. Also, it was hard to keep up with the storyline. Although there was an interesting twist with the villain, and things get crazy when Hand ninjas show up. Also I did like that Daredevil's new sidekick is Asian. It might have been something of a plotpoint, but at least there is POC representation here.

I think I have high expectations when it comes to Daredevil, from my other reading of this character and the movie, and most certainly the recent Netflix series. It's not bad. It's decent. Just not as great as I was hoping.

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Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka

Patriot Acts (Atticus Kodiak, #6)Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I freely admit that I intend to read everything by Greg Rucka I can get my hands on. He can write very well. Whether it's graphic novels or full-length fiction. I checked this audiobook out from my lad I did. It's not the first in the series. But it's okay. I got the jist on what happened. I will want to go back and read the previous books. As it was, this was a really excellent suspense novel. It starts almost in medias res, but that's okay. I liked that I was left tl learn about what was happening as things went along.

Kodiak is a good hero. He's a tough guy. He knows more than a thing or two about protecting and going on the offensive. He was in the army and he's a body guard by trade. He ends up on the black side of things when his name is outed as a traitor. He goes on the run with a shadowy assassin who has made some enemies, but has decided she doesn't want to kill anymore. At the same time, he's very empathetic and grieves deeply. I liked seeing that duality and his determination to see his mission through.

I think this would make an excellent movie. That's one of the things I love about Rucka's books. They are well-written prose novels, but could serve equally well as movies or television shows. This book is in 1st person and that works very well for this book. The first action scene at the gas station was high level tension and extremely well executed. The tension is maintained very well as Atticus and Drama go on the run together trying to stay one step ahead of the folks hunting them. And then they have to turn the tables. Everything is well thought up. No running around half-cocked. This pair has to play the long game, and the ending is satisfying even in its near bloodlessness. Drama is equally well-developed. She's the kind of action heroine I love and I wish I could see more of in movies/tv although we have some great ones with Sydney Bristow (Alias), Jane Doe (Blindspot), and although not so much physically Olivia Pope (Scandal). She is 100% lethal, but she's world weary and has learned the hard way how killing saps and destroys a person's soul and humanity. That's how you make a killer, convince them they are no longer human and that other people are below human. She had rejected that training at great cost.

The narrator was excellent. His pace and tone perfect for Atticus, a man who was world-weary and at the same time, deeply angry about something that happens in this book. And with good reason. I like how Drama's lines are spoken in a monotone that fits the character, a woman who has undergone incredibly tragic circumstances and was essentially trained to kill from an early age. I think this book is years old, but it actually relates to current events very well. It's a strange world and your friends aren't always friends and vice versa.

This isn't a long book, but it's perfectly executed. I do recommend this one.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Three, Volume 1 by Tom Taylor et al

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Three Vol. 1Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Three Vol. 1 by Tom Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sorcerer John Constantine has been put in the position of assembling a team of supernaturals to take on the greatest menace the world has ever known, authoritarian Superman who has decided he will save humanity by protecting it, and ruthlessly dealing with his enemies. He has amassed a huge toll of fallen superheroes who are working against him with the help of some heavies in the supernatural DC universe. He has aligned himself with villains who care nothing about murdering people. It's just terrible stuff, but riveting reading. Readers won't come out of this series without their minds being messed up. I can't get over how awful it is in a world where Superman is a bad guy, and the whole superhero community is fighting each other because of taking sides for and against him.

This book is timely in that it presents some timely themes about our society. Where freedom in a society is taken away due to fears (or exploiting) about the safety of humanity. Slavery and authoritarianism doesn't save anyone. There is no such thing as benevolent slavery or obstruction of basic rights. I hate that Superman was so mentally and emotionally broken that he ended up this way and led a lot of people to their destruction in the process.

Favorite parts: Harley Quinn, Zatana, John Constantine snark, seeing normals fight the good fight against superpowered heroes.

Least Favorite parts: Gruesome details of DC superheroes that I like. The tragedy of these events.

This series will stick with me for a long time. I think it should be a miniseries on Netflix although it would just about kill me.

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Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

CryoBurn (Vorkosigan Saga, #14)CryoBurn by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew this wasn't the first book in the series, but I decided to check it out from the library and listen to it anyway. Very enjoyable. Miles is an appealing lead character. I loved that Miles isn't your typical hero as far as looks. He's not very tall and he has medical issues that have affected his looks. It doesn't matter at all, because he has presence. And I love a smart guy who's solving mysteries. Miles is more or less a space detective. I like detective in any setting, but it was fun to read a science fiction book with detectives in it. I read this while I was working on my final painting for my class, and it more than kept me company. The narrator was good, he had a pleasant voice, sort of like an older English butler. It worked for me.

The story involves corporate corruption and cryostasis. Quite a combination. I liked how multicultural the cast of characters were. It sort of reminded me of how in Firefly, the Chinese culture has dominated and its reflected in the dialogue and names of people. In this case, there is a good mix of various Asian cultures, along with other ethnicities. There is plenty of suspense, but a lot of wry humor, which is always welcome. It didn't mess things up for me that I hadn't read the first book. Instead I am intrigued to read about Miles' parents Aral and Cordelia, and fortunately I do have that book.

I know I'm not giving this book justice in this review. My brain is pretty fried, so this will have to do.

I recommend this.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lazarus, Vol. 4: Poison by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark (Illustrator), Owen Freeman (Cover Artist)

Lazarus, Vol. 4: PoisonLazarus, Vol. 4: Poison by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The tentative truces between the Families are crumbling, in the wake of the concave and the attempted assassination of the Carlyle scion. Outright war in certain contested territories has broken out, and the Carlyle family's holdings are at risk in a war with another family. Forever, the Lazarus of the Carlyle family goes with selected army recruits to reclaim control. Forever is the draw of this series for me. She is a fearless warrior who fights for her family, but follows her conscience. But she's not the only hero in this book. The people who are considered serfs by the families are heroes and warriors in their own right.

While it's clear that there are good people who are entrenched in this horrible system of lands and people owned by few people who control all the resources. Whose lives seem to mean nothing, but are used as collateral or for what they can provide the family.

I believe this volume examines the whole feudal system, and how their power games eventually become destabilized. They feel safe in their ivory towers, and perhaps they are for a while, but eventually, all things come to an end. And they bring everyone else down with them. But in the meantime, they'll continue to play their game of chess on a massive scale.

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Low, Vol.1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender, Greg Tocchini (Illustrator)

Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of HopeLow, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of hope that never fades. Even in the face of the unimaginable horror a woman faces. The power of her hope keeps her children seeking a future that is safe and free from the poison sun that is slowly extinguishing life on the planet.

This book was really depressing. While I liked the message of optimism and never giving up, I don't like the fact that this woman's hope was dragged through deeper and ranker mud each time. It's almost like a slap in the face to the reader. This is what believing and hoping gets you. Nothing but sorrow and anguish.

I don't know if I would call myself an optimist. I believe in the power of good and power of love. I'm a Christian, after all. But I also believe that people will suffer in this life and that sometimes their hopes aren't realized in this life, but in eternity. It says in Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." That's my approach to fiction. I know that bad things happen in life, and the same in books, but I need to have some good with my bad when I read a fiction story. I don't like reading books where I feel worse about life after I finish it than I did when I started. This probably my major problem with this book.

The artwork was well done, and the story itself is suspenseful and exciting. It's just so very depressing. Since this is the first book in the series, I hope that hope does stay alive in this poor woman's heart, despite all that she's suffered.

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The Dresden Files: Fool Moon, Volume 1 by Jim Butcher (Author), Mark Powers, Chase Conley (Illustrator)

The Dresden Files: Fool Moon, Volume 1The Dresden Files: Fool Moon, Volume 1 by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the graphic novel version of the second book in the Dresden Files series. I loved the book and the graphic novel does a satisfying job of representing the prose version. Of course, the story is paired down, but the artwork makes up for it. It's interesting the way Dresden is represented in the graphic novel. It's not quite how I see him. He's more macho and superheroic-looking in this incarnation. One notable aspect of book is the action scenes. Right on par with the written narrative. The colors are vivid and active. In conclusion, these graphic novels don't take the place of the prose books, but they are a nice adjunct to them.

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The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

The Forbidden LibraryThe Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the idea of this book, about people whose magical ability is to read themselves into books. Appropriately enough, they are called "Readers". Alice is a recently orphaned girl who is taken in by a supposed great-uncle to stay at his estate, which he calls the Library.

It turns out that there is a library, a place full of danger, with possible answers on her father's death. Alice learns that all is not at all as it seems. The Library is sinister and has a life of its own, a doorway that leads to worlds even more dangerous.

I liked what was there, but there are big gaps in the story. I read a fair amount of books for middle grade readers, and this one feels like it's paced and laid out for a younger audience than necessary for the greater maturity of the storyline.

This is an interesting idea, but seems short and simplistic in execution. There are a few active scenes loosely connected by an underlying, although thin narrative. The story gets to a certain level, but doesn't go past that. By and large, the characters feel underdeveloped, save Alice, and possibly Isaac. The ending is not satisfying. Not a cliffhanger, but near enough. The reader deliberately left with questions. I find that a bit manipulative. Not so much a natural close to the first story, but one in which the reader is left hanging.

I liked the lead character, young Alice, a girl left parentless, and seeking answers. She goes from being timid to gaining empowerment in her new identity. I loved her new companion, Ashes, a talking cat. It appears the writer spends quite a bit of time around cats. He has their mannerisms down pat. Isaac's relationship with Alice is intriguing, but his characterization barely scratches the surface. The villains are shadowy figures that never coalesce in this book.

There's enough here in this story to make for a series that would be worth pursuing, although there were some disappointing aspects. It will be interesting to see where the story goes next, but I hope the next book is better developed.



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Punisher Vs. The Marvel University

Punisher vs. the Marvel UniversePunisher vs. the Marvel Universe by Garth Ennis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is exactly what the name implies. Frank Castle takes on the various Marvel heroes, and it's usually not pretty. The stories span from the earlier (and cheesier) Marvel days to the more recent Greg Rucka run. My favorite is still the Rucka run. The artwork steals my heart. I love it. Castle is scaled down to hard edges and determination and his partner Rachel Cole-Alves has that same edge of determination in her eyes.

The first story is a what if, the question being that the marvel heroes (the Avengers) unwittingly caused the death of Castle's family, and as such, Castle becomes a one-man kill squad who sets out to eliminate every super-powered person on earth. That was not fun reading. While Castle is always an antihero, I don't like when he's the out and out bad guy. Having him systematically kill all the Marvel heroes was damaging to my psyche and my perception of the Punisher.

There's a few stories my feelings are in-between about. I don't mind when Castle comes into opposition with the Marvel heroes when they don't end in lethal confrontation. There is one story arc where he's very, very mean to Wolverine. Understandable that Wolverine more or less can't be killed, but Castle was downright cruel in the way he incapacitated Logan.

In the last story, it's a post-apocalyptic scenario in which Castle is one of the few remaining humans who hasn't been infected by a plague that has made people into carnivorous monsters, if not zombies. The remaining folks have split up into tribes run by ruthless leaders. Castle's mission is to eliminate the monsters and protect the innocent, and the mission is everything.

Punisher is always single-minded. His psychology is very simple. See criminals punished and deal with bad guys with finality. Typically, he doesn't kill innocents or even good guys, but in the first story, he crosses that line. I didn't like seeing him that way. Anyone who reads this book has to realize that Punisher is definitely not the hero, if he ever is.

Definitely worth reading for Punisher fans.

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Night Game by Christine Feehan

Night Game (GhostWalkers, #3)Night Game by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread in the Month of August, 2016.

Who doesn't love Gator? I certainly do. Gator definitely meets his match in sassy and lethal Iris aka Flame Johnson. Sparks fly from the beginning. Flame steals his heart just like she steals information. She keeps him running, and together they find out who is kidnapping songbirds from the bayou. Flame is determined to right wrongs and protect those who can't protect themselves. She knows intimately how it feels to be abused and misused as one of Whitney's childhood experiments. She's living on borrowed time, but she wants to make the most of that time. She really doesn't have time for an affair with sexy Bayou boy, Gator, but he makes it hard to say no. He's everything she ever wanted in a lover.

Gator and Flame are perfect for each other. Both fiery and protective. While Gator acts like he doesn't have a care in the world, he takes his responsibilities seriously. And he knows Flame is all his. She's used to protecting others, no to anyone protecting her. When he has to make a choice for her health, he's knows that it could damage their relationship, but he'd rather be in a world with Flame alive, even if they aren't together.

Wyatt, who is the hero of Viper Game, is Gator's brother, and it was very cool to visit with his younger version in this story. Also great to see Nonny in this book and how much she bonds with Flame. Flame finds the family she was missing for so very long, and the she can trust the GhostWalkers, even if she doesn't trust Whitney.

Loved rereading this!


****** Reread from June 3- June 6, 2012
My thoughts:

This book series sets me on fire. I know I talk about these books way too much.I can't help it. I just adore them so much! First of all, I find the idea brilliant, and I love the interactions between the characters. The heroes and heroines complement each other, and the passion is fiery. And the action and kick*ssery freaking awesome! The elements of family, both blood and by choice make these book shine, and make me wish I was a GhostWalker (yeah, I know that's crazy, but I kinda do).

Although I loved the first two books, Night Game definitely moves faster, and the chemistry between Gator and Flame keeps the story flying. As I loved it the first time, the banter is just wonderful. Humor is used perfectly, to keep a story that has dark undertones from being excessively dreary.

--Flame: Flame is an outstanding heroine. Life has shaped her into a strong and intrepid woman. She truly is kick*ss. I honestly love all the GhostWalker heroines, and it's hard to choose my favorites, but she might be in my top three. She has very deep scars that keep her from easily giving her heart to Gator, and that is utterly understandable. However, she has a very loving, warm spirit that makes it hard to cut herself off from others. Near the end, when she is so angry at Gator, I could see why. But I am glad she comes to realize that he had his reasons and his love for her will cause him to make choices that she might not always agree with. However, she needs that kind of man, and she knows it.

--Gator: A complex mix of qualities. I love his charm. He has seen the worse in life and has sins on his soul, but he still manages to keep a smile on his face and a positive outlook. But the guy is highly lethal! Loved him in the first book books, and adored him early in this book. I didn't think I'd be as drawn to him because he's the laid-back, carefree GW, but boy was I wrong. Gator snuck up on me, and on the reread, I smile at how irresistible he is. Flame doesn't stand a chance. Neither did I!

The action in this book is off the charts. And I love that Flame is in the thick of it. The suspense elements are quite dark, since they are looking for a young woman from the bayou that was kidnapped and run into a group of men who hate women. I like how they handle those men. I like it very much.

As usual, another well deserved five stars. So glad I took the time to reread this series!

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Original Review:

Another outstanding book for the Ghostwalker series. It was awesome and unputdownable. I loved Flame and I loved Gator. They had a special relationship, and were made for each other. The banter was wonderful. I loved how Flame totally fit into his family like a missing puzzle piece. Loved how Gator wanted to take care of Flame, but also respected that she was a tough woman and could take care of herself. Flame is an alpha heroine, but she was never annoying and didn't get herself into scrapes she couldn't get herself out of. The bayou was another character that seduced me. I don't think I'd like the humidity, but I'd love the animals and the tranquility of the swamps. Again, it was great to see the other Ghost Walkers and to enjoy the camaraderie between them. What Flame suffered ripped a hole in my heart but filled me with admiration. She was an incredibly strong woman, and I loved that Gator got that and never tried to change her or mold her. He was happy with her the way she was. The action was incredible and intense. I was happy on all fronts as I love action/adventure to accompany my beloved romance story. I am so in love with this series. Please keep writing many more, Ms. Feehan.


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Conspiracy Game by Christine Feehan

Conspiracy Game (GhostWalkers, #4)Conspiracy Game by Christine Feehan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reread in the month of August, 2016

My sister and I are doing a buddy read, although I've zipped ahead. I can't help it. These books are so addictive to me.

Great to experience Jack and Briony's story again. This book has practically nonstop action, which is great, but I also loved the interpersonal moments between Jack and Briony, Jack and his brother Ken, and with the other GhostWalkers. This is well named. There is a serious conspiracy, Whitney has decided that he wants to take the GhostWalker program to the second generation, starting with pairing Jack and Briony. He doesn't mind moving people like chess pieces, even though it ended up with Ken being horribly tortured, and killing Briony's parents.

Jack is a hard man, but Briony finds his heart and teaches him to love without fear. One of my personal favorites in a romance story is a hard man who falls for a woman. He's not a marshmallow in general, but for Briony, most definitely.

I almost want to reread this book again, but I know at least I can keep moving and read all the wonderful books that follow this one.


*******Reread 6/11-6/12/2012
My Thoughts:

I did not want to put this book down, which is saying something for a reread. I feel that as much as I loved the first three books, I can see the storyline coming together in a lovely way, and I can imagine that Ms. Feehan is as excited at writing these books as I am a reading them.

Jack--
Jack is hardcore and dark. I loved him. I think that he was authentic. I can imagine with his tragic family past, he would go down that path. What I appreciated was that for self-image, Jack is not the unworthy man that he thinks he is. For all his ability to kill with ice water in his veins and his gruff way of expressing himself. He shows a sense of honor and integrity, and the ability to be tender and loving. He's what Dr. Bill Winston would consider a transition figure. Instead of continuing the cycle of violence that his father perpetuated, he chooses something different. Despite the fact that he believed himself unable to love, it's clear that he does love deeply. One of the best things about this book is the way he takes care of the two most important people in his life, Briony, and his brother Ken. Actions always speak louder than words. Not a man that a lot of women could love, but I think the right woman definitely could love him. And that woman is Briony.

Briony--
Briony is a woman who shows what courage is. She feels that she is always afraid of everything, and she hates that about herself. Sometimes we can't help being afraid, but what we do in the face of that fear is the really important thing. Briony has fought to live in a world that is hostile to her because of her psychic abilities. Being around people causes her pain and anguish. And with her family profession, she is around a lot of people, and works through that pain to do something that could be life-threatening everyday as a high-wire performer. When she encounters Jack Norton, she acts as a champion, continually facing her fears and not allowing herself to be boxed in or caged by them. She takes steps that make me quake in my boots, and I loved her for it. I am a broken record. I really do appreciate the heroines in this series. Each one unique and wonderful.

Ken--
Even though Ken is a secondary character. He is a very important one. His role in this book is crucial and adds delightful flavor to the book. He shows without words that Jack is not the lacking man that he thinks, but also augments Briony's understanding of Jack in important ways. He pokes, prods and matchmakes this couple together, and provides some delightful comic relief. He helps to makes this book the successful read that it is.

This book focuses more closely on the particular couple in focus than the GhostWalkers as a group, which some readers may like. I always enjoy the fellowship of this group, so I missed that, but the more intimate dynamics of Briony and Jack along with Ken definitely make for a rich read. The GhostWalkers show up a little, so that was good. I love how this story forwards the overlying storyline. The conspiracy thickens as we become aware that things are not as they seem, and the mastermind of the GhostWalker plan has even more sinister plans. Even on second read, this book makes me so excited to read the subsequent books!

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Original Review:

This book rocked my world. which is why I made myself put it down after four am to go to bed. When I woke up this morning, I immediately reached for it to pick up where I left off. Jack is a hero after my heart. I love the dangerous, gamma heroes, and I liked that he did worry that he was too dangerous and too intense to be with a woman. But when it came to Briony and his unborn babies, he's a marshmallow but will kill or die for them. The relationship between Jack and his twin Ken was really cool. I was glad that Briony and Ken got along so well. I liked Briony's brothers and how they protected her when danger came at her.

The plotline was pretty unique. I love pregnancy storylines anyway, but the pregnancy theme was used in such an unforgettable and creative way. Imagine a plot to pair you up with a warrior so you can breed second generation warrior offspring. Pretty interesting. Both Briony and Jack worried that the intense connection between them was just engineered. Maybe it started that way but they were definitely fated to be mated.


The action was incredible and there is no question that Jack and Ken are badasses, and so is Briony. She has tremendous inner strength to survive as an empath in a family that is full of loud people and as a performer in a circus. You can't help but admire her and you know that she was meant for Jack.

I can't help but fall more in love with Christine Feehan as an author. She knows how to write men that will keep your interest and keep you drooling. And the women are so perfect for them and admirable in their own right. This is one book that I didn't want to end. But at least I get to read Ken's book next. Yay!


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Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

The Opal Deception  (Artemis Fowl, #4)The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a great comeback from the third book, which wasn't my favorite. The action level was high, and the villain was more than a worthy match for Artemis, Butler and Holly Short. There is a very intense and tragic moment that is the catalyst for what follows in this book. Holly thought she'd seen the last of Artemis, but when the chips fall down, she's rushing to save him and Butler and knows that he's the only one who can deal with the villain, the nefarious Opal Koboi.

The characteristic wry humor is here, but Colfer takes things seriously in many ways (no patronizing tone). Artemis might be fourteen, but he is a mature fourteen who doesn't view the world from the vantage point of a child. I was happy to see Butler in the action as much as Artemis, and their back and forth, and that of Artemis with Holly, is what makes these books so enjoyable.

Opal is a very evil villain, not troubled by any morals that would preclude murder or even feeding a boy to bloodthirsty trolls. What makes it even worse is she looks like a cute little girl. I was very happy to see her dealt with in a fitting manner by Artemis and Co.

This is a clever and enjoyable series that many younger readers and some older ones will enjoy.


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